In research results unlikely to sit well with hypochondriacs, Dr. Erin Abner and her colleagues at the University of Kentucky's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging found self-reported memory complaints were predictive of memory impairment problems later in life.
Researchers surveyed 3,701 men aged 60 and older. Respondents were asked one simple question: "Have you noticed any change in your memory since you last came in?"
Researchers were surprised by what they found. "It seems that subjective memory complaint can be predictive of clinical memory impairment," Dr. Abner said. "Other epidemiologists have seen similar results, which is encouraging, since it means we might really be on to something."
Dr. Abner said patients, doctors and caretakers should be encouraged by such results, not scared. If healthcare providers can locate the onset of Alzheimer's sooner rather than later, they may have greater success at treating it.
"If the memory and thinking lapses people notice themselves could be early markers of risk for Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Abner explained, "we might eventually be able to intervene earlier in the aging process to postpone and/or reduce the effects of cognitive memory impairment."
There are currently more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer's. In 40 years, doctors expect that number to be roughly 14 million, mostly thanks to aging baby boomers. Experts worry the disease could overwhelm healthcare and senior living resources and facilities.
President Obama signed the National Alzheimer's Project Act in 2011, upping the amount of federal funds going to Alzheimer's research.
[University of Kentucky]